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Julius Caesar , who considered that the Jews represented a cohesive element in the Roman world, granted them certain exemptions to enable them to fulfill their religious duties.
These exemptions were subsequently confirmed by most of the Roman emperors.
From the end of the second century until the beginning of the fourth, the Jewish settlements in the Diaspora, although proselytizing intensely, did not encounter opposition from the Romans, though Septimius Severus in 204 prohibited conversion to Judaism.
The Christian communities, however, which expanded rapidly and proved intransigent, were severely dealt with.
In fact, this was part of the policy to suppress the Oriental cults, and an edict was also issued ordering the Jews to leave Italy unless they abandoned their religious practices.
Tiberius abrogated the measures after Sejanus' execution.
In 19 , during the reign of Tiberius , his minister Sejanus deported 4,000 Jewish youths to Sardinia to fight banditry, ostensibly to punish the Jews for having tried to defraud a woman of the Roman nobility.
According to later sources, 1,500 arrived in Rome alone, and 5,000 in Apulia .
There too they attained freedom after a relatively short time, and many remained in Italy.
In the first three centuries of the empire Jews were found in Campania: Naples , Capua , and Salerno ; in Basilicata, Apulia, and Calabria : Bari , Otranto, Taranto, Venosa , and Reggio ; and in Sicily : Syracuse , Catania , and Agrigento .
In northern Italy, the presence of Jews has been traced in Civitavecchia, Ferrara , Brescia , Milan , Pola, and Aquileia .